A Journey to Virginia in December, 1859.
A Thursday Lecture.
It must have been on, or very near. Saturday morning, December
17, 1859indeed I think it was that very morningthat
an incident occurred in the parlor of my house, then on South Professor
Street, which was taken its place in memory as one of the most pathetic
experiences of my life. A father and mother, neighbors whom I knew,
came to my door and asked for an interview. They were Mr. and Mrs.
John Copelandpeople in part, of African blood, of respectable
standing in the community, and of amiable and Christian deportment.
A son of these parents is still favorably known among us as a business
partner of Mrs. Charles Glen, the builder. As I received them, I
saw that they were in deep distress. The mother especially, exhibited
such intense sufferingsuffering so affecting both body and
mindthat it was a question whether she would not sink to the
floor, in utter exhaustion, before the conference could be completed.
Their story is soon told. A son of the family John A. Copeland,
a young man about twenty-six year of age, had gone, some months
before, to Chatham, in Canada, to visit a married sister. While
there he had met an agent of John Brown, who invited him to join
in the Virginia raid. Enthusiastic for the deliverance of both the
races with which he was identified from the curse of slavery, and
an ardent admirer of Brown, he accepted the invitation. With the
result of the raid we are all acquainted. Brown was executed December
2, 1859, at Charlestown, Virginia. On the sixteenth day of December,
came the execution of Copeland, at the same place. I have in my
possession a letter, written by him on that day to his parents,
brothers, and sisters in Oberlin, within two hours probably of the
time of his ascending the scaffold, which, in its exhibition of
Christian peace, of a spirit of forgiveness, of domestic affection,
and of profound calm, will not compare unfavorably with any of the
last utterances of apostles and martyrs. You will see that the day
of his execution was the one immediately preceding that of the visit
of his parents to me.